Friday, 3 October 2014

08:18 – I got email yesterday from a reader concerned about the Ebola situation in Dallas who asked if I thought it was time yet to panic. I replied that I am neither a virologist nor an epidemiologist, but as an educated layman I certainly thought it was a matter that should be of grave concern. The authorities, at least in their public statements, appear to be making some dangerous assumptions and are failing to take steps that I consider prudent, not least failing to quarantine people who have been or may have been exposed to the virus.

The current Ebola outbreak is different from earlier ones in at least three critical respects:

First, the number of people who have been infected and the number who have died is already higher in this outbreak than in all other outbreaks combined, and there’s no evidence that this outbreak is anything close to being under control or even that it’s certain that it CAN be brought under control. Doctors without Borders have said that with an all-out effort by the world’s governments, it may be possible to bring the outbreak under control within nine months to a year. MAY be possible, with an all-out effort. Which there’s no sign is happening.

Second, the pattern of this outbreak differs from earlier outbreaks, which were limited largely to remote rural areas and limited only to people who had had close direct contact with infected people. This outbreak has already reached the cities, and we’re now seeing the disease pop up in spots remote from the main affected areas. That suggests to me that the virus may now be air-transmissible. If so, that’s catastrophic.

Third, the virus has mutated. It’s now clear that we’re dealing with a different variant of Ebola than the variants that caused earlier outbreaks. That means it’s dangerous to assume anything about the characteristics of this new variant. Assuming that a 21-day quarantine is adequate is a dangerous assumption. This variant may have longer latency. Nor is it safe to assume that people infected with this variant are not contagious until they begin to show symptoms.

The world has not experienced a pandemic for nearly 100 years, since the Spanish flu of 1918, which had a mortality rate of “only” about 5%. The current Ebola epidemic in West Africa–with its 70%+ mortality–probably won’t become the next worldwide pandemic, but it’s certainly possible that it will. What really concerns me is that the national health authorities in the US and elsewhere do not appear to be treating this threat with the gravity that it merits. Airliners are still arriving in and departing from the affected countries every day. People known to have been exposed to Ebola were allowed to wander around unsupervised. We’re even continuing to bring patients known to be infected with Ebola to the US for treatment. This has to stop.


10:31 – I drink tea and coffee only during cool/cold weather. I just fired up the Krups for the first time this season. I’m running a pot of plain water through it first to clean it out a bit. Once that finishes, I’ll make a pot of Earl Grey.

Cooler weather has definitely arrived in Winston-Salem. Our highs over the weekend are forecast to be around 60F (16C), with lows around 40F (5C).


14:39 – Don, our UPS guy, just showed up with the ammunition I ordered from Cabela’s. I walked out to the truck as he was loading the boxes onto his cart. As he greeted me, he asked what I thought of this Ebola situation, so we chatted about that as he loaded the cart.

He knew it was ammunition because the boxes were labeled as Cabela’s and each contained the hazard label used for ammunition. He asked as he was loading the boxes if I was preparing for a zombie apocalypse or an Ebola apocalypse. Both, I told him. He volunteered that he was also a prepper and had been for years.

On National Geo’s Doomsday Preppers series, they frequently comment that there are three million preppers in the US. Depending on how one defines prepper, that may even be true. I could be convinced that there are three million very serious preppers in the US, of the type featured in that series. But in a larger sense, there are a whole lot more preppers.

When my grandmother was young, from the late 19th century through the 1920’s, nearly everyone was a prepper. They didn’t use the word, but everyone from farm families to working-class families who lived in apartments to bank presidents who lived in mansions prepped. Homes then had large pantries, which were invariably kept full of dry staples and commercial- and home-canned goods, and even those who had electric power kept candles, oil lamps, and other emergency lighting supplies.

Nowadays, fewer families keep months’ worth of stored food, although it’s still much more common than you might think. And it’s not just members of the LDS Church. The fact that both Costco and Sam’s Club carry a wide variety of freeze-dried and other storable foods and often feature them in their flyers and on their websites should tell you something. Neither of these retailers wastes effort or space on items that don’t sell well. That they carry them let alone feature them frequently means that prepping is a very popular activity.

The preppers featured on National Geo are on the right end of the Bell curve, but there are tens of millions of people who fall elsewhere on the curve. Anyone who owns a generator or even keeps spare batteries for their flashlights in case of power failure is prepping, as is someone who keeps extra blankets and some firewood on hand in case of a severe winter storm. People who live in hurricane-prone areas and store pre-cut plywood sheets to cover their windows are prepping. It’s merely a matter of degree.

106 thoughts on “Friday, 3 October 2014”

  1. I think you left out another important question. How did the US doctor who was treating Ebola patients in Africa get infected? Either he slipped up and didn’t follow proper precautions, or “proper” precautions don’t go far enough.

  2. I’d guess that he didn’t follow proper procedures. It’s not hard to do and you only have to do it once.

  3. “What really concerns me is that the national health authorities in the US and elsewhere do not appear to be treating this threat with the gravity that it merits.”

    And why would this be, one wonders? Just simple ignorant negligence? Laziness? Stupidity? Politics?

    Or deliberately and with malice aforethought?

    Cui bono?

  4. I’d guess that he didn’t follow proper procedures. It’s not hard to do and you only have to do it once.

    I hope and suspect you are right, but I’m wondering if the CDC has even thought about the question. It’s far too important a question to guess the answer to it.

  5. I think it has to do, at least a little, with the disease originating in Africa. To treat it with the correct procedures would be racist to our ridiculously politically correct MSM. It would be, in their estimation, on par with isolating Africa and leaving Africans to die on their own while whitey sits comfortably at home watching them die on TV. That is, another conspiracy, to eliminate blacks through disease (ever read some of the conspiracy theory crap on HIV in Africa?).

    …OR…

    It’s all part of a conspiracy by the NWO to reduce worldwide population. Those in power (real power) have already been vaccinated and our purposely being negligent about controlling the spread of the disease. Just think, what would the world population be today if the Black Plague, Spanish Flu, and others had never occurred?

    Where’s my tinfoil hat? 🙂

  6. That’s probably got a lot to do with it, Chad; but Whitey won’t be able to just sit at home this time and watch it all go down on the tee-vee. People are rolling in from airports and across the borders with evidently no one overseeing it anymore, assuming they ever did, and now we have carriers all over the country, I’m guessing.

    A neat thing to find out right now is whether or not our political leadership and one-percenter types are bailing out to safe quarters around the nay-shun.

    We x-posted; my tinfoil hat is full of holes.

  7. When you see the complex procedures involved in hospital treatment these days, — as I do day after day in testimony of medical malpractice cases, — what is going on in Dallas is a farce. Reminds me of Katrina and its aftermath. Citizenry left primarily to their own devices.

  8. Bob, you should have told your corespondent that there is never a good time to panic. Panic is never the answer.

    OFD, a tinfoil hat that is full of holes is properly named colander.

  9. Mr. Chuck,

    Could you post your work flow for the perfect rip and post processing of a CD to get the best sound (to your tuned ears). I want to rework some CDs I just “threw” into iTunes. I have access to Windows and Linux if needed.

  10. I’ll make a pot of Earl Grey

    I love a cup of hot Earl Grey Tea. I stumbled on it 20+ years ago from sheer sci-fi fanboy curiosity when I was a teenager. Captain Picard (ST:TNG) always asked the replicator for a cup of it, “Computer, Tea. Early Grey. Hot.” So, I got some at the grocery store and made a cup and really enjoyed it. I love the flavor that the bergamot oil gives to the tea.

  11. I drink tea year round, most mornings I start with a large cup. (Actually, it’s a Tevis tumbler.) I like chai, heavy on the milk and some sweetner. I make mine in a specialty device like this: http://www.thinkgeek.com/product/96bb/ . I also have a hot water pot that has selectable temperatures, as not all tea should be made with boiling water – I was skeptical at first, but it makes a difference with green teas and the like. Also, most of the tea in grocers is the low end stuff that is sold for high prices.

    A good mail order source of tea is Adagio tea. They carry many of the teas that the chain Teavana does, but at half the price. I can send anyone who wants one a $5 off your order coupon. I don’t think I get anything from it. Maybe a few frequent buyer points.

  12. I like chai, heavy on the milk and some sweetner.

    I used to be a big fan of Chai, but for some reason I find myself less and less a fan of anything spiced like that. I used to love the spiced beers that come in Autumn and Winter, but now I cannot stand them. Some of those pumpkin spice beers tastes like someone took a 12oz ale and dumped an entire container of pumpkin pie spice in it. Perhaps it’s just the glut of those products on the market this time of year just has me burnt out on them. Though, I do occasionally crave a Chai Tea Latte from Starbucks.

    A good mail order source of tea is Adagio tea. They carry many of the teas that the chain Teavana does, but at half the price.

    I about choked the first time I bought tea at Teavana (circa 2011). The prices they have listed are for 2oz servings. I just assumed it was per pound. Granted, tea leaves are very lightweight, so 2ozs is a fair amount, but I’m just used to per pound pricing. So, I ordered a half-pound of something and was told it was like $50+. Needless to say, I reduced how much I was buying and shopped elsewhere after that.

    Some of their white teas work out to $150/pound.

    Finally, some of their flavored teas are artifically flavored and that’s a bit of a turn-off.

    I’ll check out Adagio.

  13. Tea is best in *hot* weather. I don’t have any fancy gadgets; I just use a kettle and tea bags (Dilmah).

    I’m not enthusiastic about Earl Grey (or English Breakfast): The latter is tolerable, but is a bit bland, suitable for little old ladies with blue rinses in their hair. EG is for prancers, and two here have outed themselves today… 🙂

  14. Jerry P’s site says that Patient Zero was turned away for two days by a hospital in Dallas, so now they have 100 extra contacts to follow up. Unreal.

  15. “Y’all need to include this in your prep kits:”

    Wow! Nearly $40/pound for bacon?

    Fortunately, bacon isn’t difficult to can. (I don’t know why they call it “canning” when it’s actually bottling.) Sticking it in a Mason/Ball jar and autoclaving it renders it shelf-stable for a long, long time.

    You pay a big premium for a lot of these foods, especially freeze-dried ones, but even simple dehydrated ones. There’s some justification for the extremely high premium on freeze-dried foods. The equipment is expensive, and freeze-drying is very energy-intensive. And it’s not practical to freeze-dry foods at home.

    Dehydrated foods are another matter entirely. For example, I bought four #10 cans of Auguson dehydrated egg powder at Sam’s Club on-line. The cost was $16.50 per can, and each can contained 2.1 pounds of egg powder, which reconstitutes to the equivalent of six dozen medium eggs, or $2.75/dozen. I thought that was a pretty high premium, but immediately after I received the four cans I checked the Sam’s Club website and found that the price had increased to $21.50/can. Geez.

    I’m going to start experimenting with dehydrators, so I think I’ll make up a batch of dry egg powder. It’s simple enough to do. Crack the eggs into a blender and blend until they’re homogeneous. Pour thin layers of the liquid onto the pans of a dehydrator and let it dry the eggs, which takes anything from a few hours to overnight depending on the dehydrator. The eggs form a solid sheet on each of the dehydrator plates. Break up that sheet, run the chunks through the blender to produce powder, give that powder another short drying pass, transfer the eggs to a Mason/Bell Jar, and autoclave them. They’ll last as long as any commercial product, if not longer. Probably at least 10 years.

  16. @Miles_Teg

    Yeah, the hospital screwed up big-time, and it didn’t help that the patient failed to alert them that he’d been exposed to Ebola.

    I told Barbara last night that I think they should bury the SOB in a block of concrete. She said, “He’s not dead yet,” to which I replied, “I know.”

  17. Yeah, the hospital screwed up big-time, and it didn’t help that the patient failed to alert them that he’d been exposed to Ebola.

    The patient reportedly told one nurse, who didn’t tell anyone else. If that is true, I think the nurse should be fired and have her nursing license revoked.

  18. I find it difficult to believe that anyone that abysmally stupid could qualify as a nurse. If it is true, I think she should be involuntarily exported to West Africa to help there.

  19. Right now the news is showing haz mat crews at the Dallas apartment. I bet a whole lot of people living there are upset.

  20. What scares me is the thought that the ACLU might get involved with the lady and her family who are starting to get cabin fever after just a few days of being quarantined in their apartment.

    I can see the ACLU fighting this on the theory that she and her family are just potentially (not actually) sick, not criminals, and as such should not be able to be legally confined to house arrest since we are not under martial law.

    And in their infinite wisdom, health authorities moved the neighbors in the same building out, instead of quarantining them, also, as being potentially exposed.

    Hmm… On second thought, maybe the desire by the powers that be to institute martial law is the reason for the laxity of the health authorities…

  21. While I’m thinking about it, here’s a little something for OFD:

    http://xkcd.com/705/

    RBT, just to let you know, I’ve been lurking since way back when I first started reading Jerry Pournelle, then you, Matt Beland, Dave Farquhar, Tom Syroid, Brian Bilbrey and a few others of the old Daynotes Gang. Life interrupted for a few years, and I’ve just recently begun to come back and catch up…

  22. RBT, just to let you know, I’ve been lurking since way back when I first started reading Jerry Pournelle, then you, Matt Beland, Dave Farquhar, Tom Syroid, Brian Bilbrey and a few others of the old Daynotes Gang. Life interrupted for a few years, and I’ve just recently begun to come back and catch up…

    I’ll bring you up to speed: RBT has added two more sister-wives and is up to 15 children now. He just took a job as a greeter at Wal-mart. He still driving that same Toyota Prius.

  23. Geez…

    Things sure do change! Last time around, Bob had 2 fathers named Malcolm and Duncan (they were having trouble getting him to properly mark his territory), was only talking about upgrading his tricycle to a bicycle (his Arte Johnson raincoat was wearing out), and was working as the guy who administers the “final indignity” at Fry’s (he always said manufacturers were sending him all that neat computer stuff free of charge)…

  24. Ok, just found something I might like having. The complete works of Robert A. Heinlein in 46 leather bound books for $1,500:
    http://www.virginiaedition.com/

    “Each Virginia Edition set is bound in leather and printed on buffered, acid-free paper that meets all US archival standards. Only 2000 sets were produced and each volume of the set is hand-numbered.”

  25. I’m waiting to see some other shoes drop; more high gummint officials and one-percenter types bailing to “safer” places, whether here or overseas, aboveground or below; and…whether there will be increasing urban panic and then martial law crackdowns.

    This is starting to look like a movie.

    Since I don’t get the broadcast or cable tee-vee nooz, has Barry Soetero or any other really high-ranking Bolshie son-of-a-bitch said anything concrete yet about this situation? Just curious…don’t believe anything they say…just for the amusement value.

    “…here’s a little something for OFD…”

    Yes, the life of a sys admin; where the failure of systems to stay up, come back, or respond is taken as a personal affront and challenge.

    This sys admin was fired this morning, along with his kid co-worker, at about 09:30. The management will be “…moving in a new direction…” with regard to their IT. They appreciate our efforts, etc., etc.

    So, about six weeks total on that gig. Learned some Windoze chit I hadn’t known before or had forgotten; ditto some network stuff; and also how to mess around enough to be dangerous with a MySQL database. Picked up some income for the bills here and got us a new second vehicle. Saw gorgeous scenery on the 40-mile commutes every day. Six days a week.

    I feel worse for the kid; at 18, his first real full-time job after high skool; previously only fry-cook stuff at restaurants. He was pretty good with the basic Winblows help desk chit. Now he just got a cold splash of urine in the face on how the current Murkan job market works.

    I was bummed and pissed at first, but hey, fuck it. Good riddance. I’ll find something closer, get a bunch more stuff done on the house and yahd now, and work harder on transitioning outta IT, hell, I’m 61; no one wants us. We basically kept their chit up and running for a few weeks while they made their plans and talked with outside consultants; no better or worse than what the two previous high skool kids got. Work your ass off keeping them afloat and then get dumped like yesterday’s newspapers and told in so many words that they don’t really value what you do.

    I saw red flags when I first started but did the due diligence and gave it a shot per my VA conversationalist and Mrs. OFD. Time to regroup.

  26. Well, congratulations and condolences. As I’ve said, it’s a mistake nowadays to count on anyone other than yourself, family, and friends.

  27. Yeah, I warn’t counting on them for much; self, family and friends are A-OK.

    And it’s a beeyooteeful day in the neighborhood here…late afternoon early autumn sunlight on gold, green, red and bronze leaves everywhere under a blue sky, with whitecaps and a breeze off the bay.

    Time for a few handfuls of pretzels and some ice-cold Moxie and Dr Pepper. Listen to the radio…watch the sun go down…break the news to Mrs. OFD…

    …livin’ the dream…

  28. This is starting to look like a movie.

    http://www.amazon.com/Outbreak-Blu-ray-Dustin-Hoffman/dp/B001CT876M/

    And a book:
    http://www.amazon.com/The-Hot-Zone-Terrifying-Origins/dp/0385479565/

    This sys admin was fired this morning, along with his kid co-worker, at about 09:30. The management will be “…moving in a new direction…” with regard to their IT. They appreciate our efforts, etc., etc.

    Dude! Sorry to hear that. Sounds like they are going to drive the company into the ground.

    BTW, if they call you back, you need to get some bucks upfront to help your hurt feelings.

  29. I’ll find something closer, get a bunch more stuff done on the house and yahd now, and work harder on transitioning outta IT, hell, I’m 61; no one wants us.

    Not sure if I put this up before, “The Enemy in HR”:
    http://www.cringely.com/2014/09/28/enemy-hr/

    “Right now, depending who you speak with, there is either a shortage or a glut of IT professionals in the USA. Those who maintain there is a shortage tend to say it can only be eliminated by immigration reform allowing more H1-B visas and green cards. Those who see a glut point to high IT unemployment figures and what looks like pervasive age discrimination. If both views are possible — and I am beginning to see how they could be — we can start by blaming the Human Resources (HR) departments at big and even medium-sized companies.”

  30. talked with outside consultants

    HA! The result of that will be continuing system failures and higher costs (way higher than they were willing to let you spend). Sometimes they get a working system but usually not. They always get the higher costs.

    Thirty-six years in IT and I’ve never seen otherwise.

  31. Same here, dkreck; the PHB manglers prefer to spend fah more money on failure than they would on in-house success. I’ve also seen it firsthand; in IT on and off since 1984. Now I’m off again, haha.

    In fact, over the past twelve years, I’ve been off roughly eight years. On unemployment and/or crappy part-time and minimum-wage gigs not worth the cost of the gas to get to them. Actually more like nine years, now that I think of it. And previous to 2002 I’d been continuously employed since I left active mil-spec service in ’75. Or in other words, since I was eighteen, really.

    Two layers of frosting on my day of cake today, for laffs, guys, strictly for laffs, not crying here, just laughing: I left the house at 07:00 today to get in early and get some work done fast ’cause I was gonna leave early. Ran into road repairs in town here almost immediately and there went the early start, totally negated right away. Zipped along the highways to work and for the last two miles? More road work and traffic backed up two miles; now I’m not only not early, I’m late. Got to their stupid stand-up meeting fifteen minutes late, said my piece, got to work, and then fired right after that.

    Second layer of frosting on our cake today; Mrs. OFD just called from the airport garage; her cah is dead. She’s calling AAA now. If they can’t come or can’t jump it, I have to drive down tomorrow and do it; she’ll stay at her mom’s meanwhile. I’d drive down tonight but she’ll tell me not to do that.

    What next? Ebola breakout in Saint Albans Bay? ISIS beheadings on the pier? Celine Dion and the ABBA clones at the local pub?

  32. Just did the math; my twelve years of mostly being unemployed started right about when I turned fifty.

    Dunno if that means anything. If I wasn’t so stubbornly trying to stay in relatively higher-paying IT all these years, maybe I woulda found something else by now.

    A word to the wise, I guess, maybe….

  33. @OFD.
    Shee-it!

    Saw that coming, of course, but no way I expected it that soon.
    Of course, that was my own problem when it happened to me as well.
    Never even knew war had been declared before it was over.
    Too busy doing the work, earning what we’re paid, to protect the job.

  34. Sorry about the job, Mr. OFD. Sounds like it sucked and they weren’t willing to invest in stability anyway. I wonder what they will do in the interim? Call back the former “kids” to fix shit daily.

    When my wife retired and started her biz, she wall pulling in almost $500 a month. Good thing I still had two years on active duty. When I retired, she was making over $100,000 a year. I took two months of saved leave and started working for her. We never looked back. As Dr. Bob says, it’s a mistake nowadays to count on anyone other than yourself, family, and friends.

    You’ll find something else. Hopefully something you enjoy.

  35. “Too busy doing the work, earning what we’re paid, to protect the job.”

    That was me. And everything was fine and dandy yesterday afternoon when we left; zero warning or anything suspicious that they were gonna do us like this today.

    “I wonder what they will do in the interim?”

    They’d already apparently arranged to bring in the previous long-time IT guy for six hours a week in two or three early mornings per week for a while. He gets $200/hour for this, probably, on top of his regular six-figure job he works full-time elsewhere. And he’s the guy who built the whole system infrastructure there over eight years and knows all the bits and bytes of it. I can’t say anything bad about him; he was never anything other than helpful and friendly throughout. Low-key, moderate, big bear of a Canadian. And they have another two or three outside consultants on monthly retainers, mostly for the programming chit.

    “When my wife retired and started her biz, she wall pulling in almost $500 a month.”

    When mine retires in another couple or several years, she will probably have been pulling that in along with her regular job by then. I may well end up working for her accordingly when it gets bigger. So far it’s very time-consuming and labor-intensive, so I dunno. Then there’s my own shot at doing something different which I will now ramp way the hell up again. While I also keep looking for local IT gigs like the sap I am.

    Now waiting for wife to call back with the latest plan….the fun just never stops!

  36. @OFD – from one who has been there and done that too many times over the last 17 years, keep a stiff upper lip pal. Us ol’ farts are nothing if not tough.

    17 years ago I was called in to a meeting with all the company senior management and given a $10,000.00 check for saving the company $10 million. Then was told to report to my “boss”. When I saw the guard outside the door I knew what was in store. One minute the most valuable guy around, the next the newest guy in the unemployment line. Had to get a lawyer so that that “award” check did not exclude me from unemployment. Fortunately the lawyer was a friend and also worked for the company I was just laid off from, he knew how to deal with government bureaucracy. Did the work for me as a favor. I’ve been an Independent Contractor ever since. Thank goodness my wife is an RN and makes even more than my engineer wages ever were.

  37. @OFD: My condolences. BT, DT (no T-shirt)–oddly enough, when I was fifty-one, after 15 years with the company. Just a coinky-dink, I’m sure! 🙂

    One small consolation was being employed there long enough to become vested in the pension plan. That monthly deposit to my checking account has dulled the pain and anger at being RIFfed, but only a little. And it will surprise no one here that my 65th birthday came and went with nary a peep from the company HR; I had to call and “remind” them that it was time to start the deposits!

  38. Ain’t it tiresome getting screwed over by jobs and PHB manglers? Mrs. OFD and I have been through the mill with this stuff over the past sixteen years; as I mentioned above, before that I’d been gainfully employed one way or another since I was eighteen, and before that I did a whole slew of different part-time gigs throughout high skool.

    Then, like a faucet being turned off, or a light going out, we turn fifty and that’s it???

    Meanwhile we have Dr. Emmanuel, Mayor Rahm’s brother, telling us all that there is no point in living past 75 and we should have a duty to die. You first, you piece of shit.

    Wife got AAA to jump her cah and she was at her mom’s checking on her; I broke the nooz to her on da phone and she’s on her way back up here now. It’s become a regular damn thing and we’re pretty tired of it by now.

  39. Naw, that’s Julie Pierson; she was made head of SS because there were no qualified males available to serve in that position.

    Mordor Lisa is some other chick; if she’s halfway decent looking, that is why she’s got the job. If not, it’s because she’s a hardcore fugly Bolshie pig, like the ones Larry Klinton surrounded himself with, including the Heroine of Tripoli and Benghazi.

    If the WH sez it has the situation in hand, we better say our Act of Contrition and get the blessing of the local parish priest ASAP up here…

  40. Wow. I am having to log in almost every day now. Logging in has never worked like “remember me” does on other sites, but I used to get a week before it logged me out — even when I leave the pages open all week.

    The cost was $16.50 per can, and each can contained 2.1 pounds of egg powder, which reconstitutes to the equivalent of six dozen medium eggs, or $2.75/dozen. I thought that was a pretty high premium, but immediately after I received the four cans I checked the Sam’s Club website and found that the price had increased to $21.50/can. Geez.

    Amazon is apparently not the only one who changes prices to sock it to you when they know they have you by the short and curlies. Was listening to my usual BBC Business Daily podcasts during lunch, and they had a piece on about Internet marketing techniques. The woman expert they talked to, said it is now common for all large Internet retailers to vary prices depending on what their algorithms think you will bear. They collate info from many sources, including Facebook, where — if you mention their products favorably, it automatically means they will raise the prices of their products to you.

    This is a privacy and discrimination issue in Europe, and they are considering legislation to outlaw it. But America does not seem to care. In fact, retailers are trying to figure out how to employ the same tricks in their brick and mortar stores. And you know those chips in newer credit cards we were talking about? They will allow the store to identify you and then hook you into algorithms that would adjust the price of everything you are about to be billed for, based on this floating scale they want to employ. The technology already exists and has been tested.

    I wonder if your prices would be lower or higher if you qualified for food stamps?

  41. I’ll check out Adagio.

    I was wrong. Their prices are 1/2 to 1/3 of Teavana. Another cheap source is your local Asian grocery. A good source of loose Chinese/Taiwan black and green teas.

  42. Why management insists on screwing over their most intelligent and hard-working employees, ones who potentially know all of the company’s vulnerabilities, is beyond me. It’s fortunate for the country that most of the laid-off IT workers are law-abiding.

  43. Jeez, OFD. I’d offer condolences but you must have been Pol Pot or something in a previous life, to be working off that much bad karma.

    If I might suggest, look more intensively into the self-employment you can do from Casa OFD — writing research papers for the ignorant and lazy or the gunsmithing or whatever.

  44. Give me a day on the ripping info. Actually, I need to document this for training at the radio project, so that request comes at a good time.

  45. Chuck, can I suggest that one of the steps be “It puts the lotion on its skin”, just to see if the readers are paying attention?

  46. “Jeez, OFD. I’d offer condolences but you must have been Pol Pot or something in a previous life, to be working off that much bad karma.”

    Mr. Pot’s little Khmer Rouge buddies blew some shrapnel into me back in the day but I got some major payback for them via my M60. So maybe, yeah, the karma thing is kicking in now or sumthin.

    “If I might suggest, look more intensively into the self-employment you can do from Casa OFD — writing research papers for the ignorant and lazy or the gunsmithing or whatever.”

    Yup, dat’s what I be lookin’ at doin’. Write papers, do custom gun work, buy and sell guns, etc. Maybe one-on-one and very small group tutoring in English, Latin and American/European history, middle school through college-level. Part-time or consulting IT chit, who knows. One thing I do know: it would be nice not to ever again have to work for somebody else on a regular full-time basis. This last experience may have well soured me on manglers forever. Esp. women manglers, for whom I have long had contempt and loathing, with zero exceptions over half a century. Maybe they can sense that…yes…of course they can.

    The best bosses I had were at IBM and EDS, all men. The worst have all been women.

    Did I mention that women comics, women poets, and women chefs mostly suck? Yeah, there are exceptions which prove the rule: the late Joan Rivers (sometimes) and Carol Burnett; Emily Dickinson and Sappho; and the late Julia Child. That’s about it.

    Now I’ll go to hell for sure.

  47. Must. Resist. Joke. About. Female. Managers. Sucking. Not. Because. It’s. In. Poor. Taste. But. Because. It’s. Too. Easy.

  48. Yikes! Just got to the part about OFD’s day. Hope you were there long enough to file for unemployment against them. Cost them a fortune! Aside from that, there is not much I can say to make it better.

    I was relieved of a job pretty damned quickly once. Six months instead of six weeks — after I had moved the entire family, including 2 toddlers (at the time) 1,000 miles across the country, and had taken on a much more expensive house than we had previously. What made it a little tough to deal with was that they had come after me to work for them, I did not pursue anything there. The only thing that ameliorated that fiasco, was the fact that my previous job was descending into hell, and after I left, they fell off a cliff, both in programming and financially. The head guy there was finally asked to retire. So it was time for me to leave, I just went the wrong way. Should have gone west, not east.

    Nothing wrong with my work at the short-time place — ratings and clearances were climbing dramatically after I got there, and we finally were able to sell advertising on my project, which had run for nearly 2 years with only PI’s (per-inquiry — those 800 number ads where you get paid a paltry amount for each phone call the ad generates). I was head of the department of about 50 people with 5 news bureaus across the world. Only time in my life I had somebody who so revered me as a boss, that she quit cold over the way my being relieved was handled — and she was a highly valued production engineer. That outfit went bankrupt less than 2 years after I was gone — not that it made me feel any better. Money had not been a problem while I was in charge.

    I ended up getting essentially 4 years of pay after being relieved, primarily because there was dissension above me about the way things were handled. The outfit was actually owned by a Christian church and events that happened appeared pretty unChristian to almost everybody but the people who did the dirty deed.

    Turned to corporate video after that, which paid dramatically more, without any of the hassles and criticisms I had to fight daily in regular TV. My business manager took over the media division of the church after the broadcast news division went bankrupt, and I got some very lucrative contract work from her before she was ultimately RIF’d.

    Even today, I get about the same per hour as my best TV management jobs, I just do not work anywhere near an 8 hour day 5 days a week. Of course those management jobs are paying much, much more these days than more than a decade ago when I occupied them. In similar organizations today, I would be getting a couple million per year for what I did. Too old to qualify for that these days; those guys are 40 to 50. Not many last past 50.

    One thing I learned early in my career, after seeing someone given 20 minutes to clear out of the building, was never to accumulate or keep stuff at work. I never did. It was the same thing for me as with DadCooks: when the time came, security took my badge and escorted me from ‘the meeting’ directly out of the building without ever passing my office again. (This happened some months after I was relieved from the project I was hired for, so I had nothing in that office that was mine from the previous incident forward.)

    This whole episode of yours is a clear sign of bad management. Incompetent, even, and certainly unfair. I may not honor Christianity anymore, but who in this clearly Christian era acts like this? Only hypocrites, IMO.

  49. Bob,

    I need a cheap source of CaCl2 pellets (or whatever you call those things) to dehydrate my pillows (aww, quit laughing — a nice, dry down pillow is as close to the luxury of 71 virgins as you’ll ever get).

    I just dumped the used remainder of my Dri-Rid in the toilet, and I’ll be damned if it didn’t form a concrete adhesion on the bottom of the porcelain enamel bowl. The stuff is stuck fast! May I assume an acid will remove it? Best I’ve got is vinegar, but can pick up some muriatic acid.

    Since we’re speaking of acids and teapots and kettles and the like… I have an espresso maker AND and iron, both w/ brass boilers. Either company want me to buy some ridiculously expensive descaler, while I think citric acid should do just fine. Vinegar seems to work on my 30 yo Mr Coffee Junior, but it’s not got brass boiler. Any suggestions?

  50. According to what the Dallas hospital is saying now, the nurse entered all that relevant information into her computer system, but that info doesn’t show up on the doctor’s screen when the case is passed on to him.

    They say they’ve fixed that now.

    Horse, Barn Door.

  51. exceptions which prove the rule

    I’m surprised at you, OFD. This is one of those examples of inverted meaning. An exception “proves” the rule as in “tests”, as in “90 proof” as in a proofed gun barrel. A better way to state the same thing would be “an exception falsifies the rule”.

  52. @ jim`

    I’m assuming the dry-rid is just calcium chloride rather than silica gel or another desiccant. If so, the best thing is just to dissolve it. Many compounds that are extremely soluble are slow to go into solution and may form dense accretions of the type you’re seeing. Sodium carbonate (washing soda) does the same thing. The best thing is just to replace the water in the toilet boil periodically until the mass dissolves. If you can do that by flushing, great. If the mass is blocking the exit, you can just add water until the bowl is full and let it sit with occasional stirring. Acid won’t help in dissolving calcium chloride.

    As to descaling, I wouldn’t worry about using vinegar. Yes, if left in contact for a long time, it will eventually react with the copper to form copper acetate, but in any reasonable time it will produce only small amounts of the copper salt and won’t remove enough copper to matter. Just rinse the thing thoroughly in water to remove all traces of soluble copper salts before you use it to make anything for human consumption.

    As to cheap desiccants, you can buy a bag of ice-melt pellets, which are usually a combination of calcium and magnesium chlorides, both of which are hygroscopic (or even deliquescent) in their anhydrous forms. Dry the stuff out in the oven at 350F for an hour or so and then store it in a glass jar until you need it.

  53. “This is one of those examples of inverted meaning.”

    Yes, I’m aware of the usage; it’s just one of those things that people say without thinking much about it and has been around for at least a century or more.

    ” Hope you were there long enough to file for unemployment against them.”

    Nope. Would have to be six months in this state. My VA conversationalist said it was a shitty way to treat somebody and that the management there is sick. Wife and MIL also outraged. I’m quite frankly just glad to be outta there; now I gotta get cracking on something else. We got some bills paid and a new second vehicle outta the deal and I can put some recent Windoze experience on the resume.

    Overcast here today and lotsa rain expected.

  54. I figured that was the case, but that phrase leads to slopping thinking.

    Person 1: “All women bosses are terrible.”
    Person 2: “I had a good woman boss once.”
    Person 1: “See, that proves the rule.”

    Obviously it “proves” it in the sense of falsifying it, but Person 1 is an idiot (for more reasons than one) and believes that a counter-example that falsifies the truth claim he’s just made somehow establishes the truth of that specious claim.

    I’d prefer people start using a slightly modified version of that phrase: “The exception DISproves the rule.”

  55. Thanks much, guys; I’m on it. Gonna get something going here, one way or the other. I am so freaking tired of slaving for other dimwits, cretins, and malicious sons of bitches.

    “…but that phrase leads to slopping thinking.”

    It also apparently leads to typos. LOL.

  56. There is something to OFD’s original statement. It should be something like “The rarity and memorability of the exception illustrates the general accuracy of the rule.” Perhaps the phrasing should be a bit less clunky.

  57. There is a better way of saying the same thing but the long and short of it are that that’s the way it’s been used for a very long time.

    “Such-and-such is the exception that proves the rule.”

    In other words, the rule is generally ironclad, but not completely. The exceptions to it tend to reinforce it as being mostly true.

    Key word being “tend.”

    And “illustrates” should be “illustrate.” Shame on you, Mr. SteveF.

  58. “Such-and-such is the exception that proves the rule.”

    Yes, OFD. Thank you, OFD. I hadn’t thought of that, OFD. I wasn’t being wry, OFD.

    And “illustrates” should be “illustrate.”

    Editing glitch — I’d started with “rarity illustrates”, then added “and memorability” but didn’t update the verb. I should point out that I’d immediately previously been talking in Chinese, which doesn’t have subject-verb plurality issues.

    (That’s a BS justification, of course. While all of the statements in the previous paragraph are true, the first sentence and the second have nothing to do with each other aside from the causality implied by proximity. Hey! I could be an agenda-driven journalist, with l33t skills like these!)

  59. Thou hast perhaps found thy first calling, sir.

    An amusing thought-experiment: imagine yourself as a professional journalist in these times and this culture. How long would you last, actually? About five minutes? Same with me; just can’t divorce myself so totally from reality that quickly, not at my advanced age and decrepitude. And I’ve had enough of being a badly paid mercenary and whore.

    Probably a good thing that you know Chinese, though; never know if and when that might come in handy. I suppose I should be re-learning French, given our proximity to La Belle Province, but they speak a bastard version of it there and there ain’t been much call for it thus fah in the past two years up here; they all mostly speak English, as good as we do, mostly.

    Yes, kids; English is indeed the Master Language of the Universe. God Himself speaks it; I know, because it says so in my 1611 Authorized Version. And my 1559 Book of Common Prayer. (just don’t tell our parish priest!)

  60. “Celine Dion and the ABBA clones at the local pub?”

    All hail Celine Dion! All hail ABBA! All hail Barry Manilow!

  61. Sorry about your former job Dave, management are full of arseholes nowadays, which is one of the reasons I (voluntarily) walked out the door in May 2013.

    I don’t need to work from a financial point of view, but would like to, if the circumstances were ideal. Trouble is, they’re not.

  62. The American saying “I could care less” should, to my way of thinking be “I couldn’t care less.” That’s what everyone down here says.

  63. RBT wrote:

    “OFD is too bright to be a wage slave.”

    I was a wage slave for 33 years (starting in 1980) and it was okay, at least at first. I learned some stuff, got paid decently, made good friends and enjoyed myself. Did some stuff in the Eighties that would have got me sacked instantly if done after about 1993.

    It got progressively worse from about 1990, but being a contractor would have been just as bad. More dough, less security. A contractor I worked with was instantly marched out the door a few years ago for something I would have just been yelled at for. (He forwarded an e-mail to a number of people, and someone took offense.)

  64. Dave, did you ever think seriously about Bob’s suggestion of writing term papers?

  65. An amusing thought-experiment: imagine yourself as a professional journalist in these times and this culture. How long would you last, actually?

    Long while based on what I have seen. No editors at newspapers anymore, and stories are rife with mistakes that scream at anybody with a 1960’s high school English education.

    Speaking of that, notice how many retractions and corrections NYT is posting, since Jill Abramson was fired? It is a lot!

    The rarity and memorability of the exception illustrates the general accuracy of the rule.

    And “illustrates” should be “illustrate.”

    Actually, the rules have changed. I am not kidding about this, as I learned when teaching English in my recent past. If there is a noun in a clause between the actual subject and the verb, the verb can agree with that noun if it sounds strange when done otherwise. This is especially true when the subject is two singular nouns that combine so the verb should be plural — exactly as in Steve’s example. So he was not technically wrong, although he prematurely admitted error.

  66. Wow, Friday was jam-packed. Just now finishing it.

    I am never free until late on Fridays, as that is the planning day for next week, and at the least I am gone for lunch where the planning session occurs. Often, Friday nights are play nights, and I stopped at the James Whitcomb Riley Festival in Greenfield on the way home. Nothing but booth after booth of Colts and Indiana University football monogrammed clothes. Sheesh! And they closed down US National Road 40 to do that, which I think should not be allowed. That road was paid for, and is maintained by US tax dollars, and should never be closed for locals to have a party.

    I hated tea growing up, until I started visiting our relatives in England regularly in the ’70’s. There, I found out that it is poison to drink black tea without milk (they really believe this) to neutralize whatever the poison is (which escapes my memory at the moment). Anyway, since then, I have been drinking Typhoo tea daily with breakfast. Nothing compares with Typhoo IMO. They even have a decaf tea, which I now use, since my doc ordered ‘no more caffeine’ for me (he says nobody over 50 should drink caffeine, if they want an extended life). The Typhoo decaf tastes exactly like the regular stuff. Typhoo is India-grown. If tea does not have India-grown orange pekoe in it, my taste buds tell me it is not worth drinking.

    Edit: Tannic acid is the poison Brits neutralize with milk.

  67. @OFD: Muchos sympathy, that sucks. I don’t figure the company – you cannot change your IT people this often and expect things to stay working. Especially when pretty much your whole IT department consists of one person plus an intern-like-object. Anyway, their IT department is only about half the minimum for a company that size. PHBs with no clue, there’s no other explanation.

  68. “The American saying “I could care less” should, to my way of thinking be “I couldn’t care less.” That’s what everyone down here says.”

    I hear the former all the time here in North Murka; it bespeaks ignorance of one’s own language when a simple parse of the sentence shows that it means the opposite of its supposed intent.

    “A contractor I worked with was instantly marched out the door a few years ago for something I would have just been yelled at for. (He forwarded an e-mail to a number of people, and someone took offense.)”

    At EDS, just before my time there, a network engineer had done an email joke thing back and forth with a colleague at another site, perhaps a bit off-colour (like that spelling?) and accidentally left a printout on a printer where a fembot found it and grew “offended” and the guy was fired and frog-marched instantly with his box of chit out the door. Later, after I left there, a senior DBA got a little hot at a meeting and banged the table once with his hand; a fembot again was offended and alleged fear and trembling and he, too, was instantly fired. When I think of the stuff me and my fellow cops did and said, and the stuff in the factories where I worked, and even back at DEC, I have to laugh; any of that would have got me and them fired now, at the drop of a hat. What a country!

    Oh wait–this chit goes on in Oz and the UK, too. Have we lost our ballz completely nowadays?

    “…did you ever think seriously about Bob’s suggestion of writing term papers?”

    I took a quick look at it; may have to investigate it further; I admit to a bit of discomfort with the concept. Maybe there’s a way I can re-tool it to satisfy my itsy-bitsy moral compass.

    “…since Jill Abramson was fired?”

    Would she, at her high level, been that much into the editing micromanagement?

    “So he was not technically wrong, although he prematurely admitted error.”

    Not technically, but he fessed up like a man and confessed his grievous fault and shall be absolved and shriven of his sin accordingly.

    “…I don’t figure the company – you cannot change your IT people this often and expect things to stay working. Especially when pretty much your whole IT department consists of one person plus an intern-like-object. Anyway, their IT department is only about half the minimum for a company that size. PHBs with no clue, there’s no other explanation.”

    Exactly. One of the former kids emailed me today with his sympathies; he said they seem to enjoy firing people there and he could never figure it out. They have three or four outside consultants, mainly for programming, and the former IT guy who lives nearby, who built the whole ball of wax, and who is apparently willing to keep coming in part-time every week to fix stuff that he built. They clearly don’t value their IT, hate spending money on it for in-house support, and like all too many sites I’ve been at, they expect newcomers to walk in the door and instantly know, through osmosis, I guess, every nuance, trick and issue of their entire infrastructure. And then solve every problem thereafter, also instantly, and staying late, coming in early and working weekends to do it. While also being on-call. They clearly think of IT drones as interchangeable game pieces they can swap out at will, like their production workers on the manufacturing lines. They may be right.

    Hey, I saw the red flags on the first day and was ready to bail after that first week of chaos and the avalanche of chit they threw at me, but my VA padre and wife said I should hang on, things will get better, they said; you’ll pick it right up, they said. I thought I had until Friday morning.

    They apparently prefer their IT to run on a shoestring and a prayer. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

  69. Bob,

    Thanks for suggestion re ice pellets. And vinegar. And accretion of CaCl in toilet. Didn’t know washing soda did the same thing, but boy, does it ever stick to the porcelain! Wonder why that is?

    OFD, sorry to hear about the job. You’ll land on your feet.

    ChuckW, I am also awaiting your summary of latest technique for converting files to MP3, or whatever the latest format is. I might be the oldest fuddy-duddy around because I still use a phonograph. Prefer it, AAMOF.

  70. I admit to a bit of discomfort with the concept. Maybe there’s a way I can re-tool it to satisfy my itsy-bitsy moral compass.

    If an otherwise desirable action causes a problem with your moral compass, adjust your moral compass, or at least think only about the good aspects of the action until your moral compass stops objecting. Sheesh, I can’t believe I have to tutor you in moral relativism, and at your age.

  71. @OFD: “They have three or four outside consultants, mainly for programming, …”: Soooo, maybe it’s time for you to learn to program?

    No doubt others here will stand aghast at the suggestion of learning Java as a first (or any) programming language, but it’s ubiquitous (runs on both Windows and Linux), online tutorials are everywhere, the interpreter/compiler and IDEs are free, and there are many, many useful libraries and apps developed in it.

    Once you’re comfortable with Java, you might consider looking into Lucene and Lingpipe, two Java libs designed to process text which a man of letters like yourself might find at least intrinsically interesting as well as being useful items in your programming toolkit.

    Since you expressed reservations in re writing term papers for the educationally unscrupulous, be aware that software exists (using the libs mentioned above along with others) that detects plagiarism and other forms of literary fraud. Your becoming really well-versed in this area might eventually lead to a steady source of income.

  72. “Sheesh, I can’t believe I have to tutor you in moral relativism, and at your age.”

    I know, huh? Maybe if I wave a magnet or sumthin around my moral compass it will deviate to doing whatever it takes to get past this little quibble. Well, besides the quibble, I haven’t run across any sites yet that float my boat for doing this sorta thing; admittedly having given it not much time so fah.

    “…aghast at the suggestion of learning Java…”

    After finding out what the previous IT guy makes now doing web dev (with PHP and MySQL) and another consultant there who does pretty much the same thing on Mac devices, I have considered it. Not sure I have the temperament or talent for it, though; perhaps I oughta try an online tutorial accordingly. The sys/net admin thang groweth old and a lot of us are damned tired of being treated like crap, not that programmers don’t get treated likewise, but I’ve pretty much done all I can with these gigs and been outta work more often than in it.

  73. “Not sure I have the temperament or talent for it, though;”: An ye ken Middle Englisch, Java should be a snap! Forsooth! 😉

    As for being abused like a programmer, at least it’d be a change!

  74. Yeah, a snap, more like Old English than Middle, probably. Ever hear OE? Sounds like German. Which it is, mostly.

    Ah, so long as I can be abused at a job, I will gladly do it, whatever it is. I live for the abuse.

    But who would hire me based on me doing online tutorials in it? Or could I pad my sys/net/security/dba resume with it accordingly?

  75. Not sure about Vermont, but around here there is an infinite demand for Ruby on Rails programmers. DIL studied an online tutorial diligently for about 6 to 8 months some 5 years ago, and got a high 5 figure job (coming up on 3 years there now) with people from other places actively wanting her if she ever gets tired of where she is. She mentors high school girls in Rails and a couple have gone directly to programming jobs, bypassing McDonald’s and higher education.

    Yes, I know that Rails is not liked around here, but just sayin’ there is sure-fire money in it. (Around here at least.)

  76. When you say “diligently” what sort of time commitment was involved for that 6-8 months? And what made her pick that?

    Right now I have two windows open for M$ online lessons in a bunch of Windows stuff and another one open for Cisco CCENT/CCNA, but that’s all sys/net admin course work and I keep running into brick walls in that field now. I’m ready and willing to try another angle in IT and otherwise use that to pay the bills while I work to transition out of it, at least full-time.

  77. Hey, I saw the red flags on the first day and was ready to bail after that first week of chaos and the avalanche of chit they threw at me, but my VA padre and wife said I should hang on, things will get better, they said; you’ll pick it right up, they said. I thought I had until Friday morning.

    I remember you indicating that. The fact is that no one outside of your own area of expertise, is qualified to judge your effectiveness. Actually, I am sure you have proved that to yourself many times during your career.

    One of the strangest situations I ever faced, was at the aforementioned job I was relieved of. One of the oddball problems they had when I walked in, was a bureau of 5 people, who were producing only a dribble of output. Previous managers were all newspaper people, and my boss from the newspaper, wanted to fire all of them and start over. I made a trip there as one of my first priorities, spent 2 days at the office, had lunch with a couple and breakfast with a couple more, and found out what no one else in the chain of command could even comprehend.

    There was someone in that office that wildly intimidated everyone in it. They swept into the office, told several others that they needed their desks for a ‘big, important project’, and the other people would sometimes just go home. They did no work after losing their desk for several days. My last day was lunch with that individual, and i removed their own desk privileges in that office (it was just 3 small rooms for 5 people and one room was an editing suite) and told that person to work from home. With that individual never showing up at the office anymore, that group of people began turning out 3 times the amount of work as any of the other 4 bureaus.

    Now one of my mistakes, was that (and I knew this at the time I essentially relieved that person) they were once good drinking buddies with a manager directly above my boss. Apparently, when I was relieved, the loudest call for doing so, came from that bud.

    And so it goes.

    The program series I was in charge of — just like you guys sometimes mention certain series you start out liking, then they fall to chit — immediately crashed. Ratings and clearances fell significantly; because of that, management thus pulled the plug on PR money; and in less than a year, the program was cancelled.

    Truly, upper management in many places is wholly incompetent, and one wonders how businesses ever actually survive. Just wait until that place has a failure that stops factory production and there is no IT on premises to fix the problem. That day will come.

  78. There it is.

    They’re already skating on very thin ice with aging servers and only one guy that knows how it all fits together, who already has a much better-paying full-time gig elsewhere. Why they waited six weeks for me to really start getting to know it as much as he did and then canned me is a mystery. This is a place that replaced him with a new high skool grad and then a second new high skool grad, both of whom have gone on to other things. Then they bring me in, see that I’m overwhelmed by just the sheer volume of chit coming through the door and they hire yet another new high skool grad to help me. Two weeks later they fire us both.

    My VA padre (actually madre) sez the management there is “sick.” They’re clearly out to lunch on a number of levels. But they must know that on some level, too.

    Ah, well, like I’ve said; I got paid for the six weeks on time, took care of some bills, and got us a second vehicle again. Got to reacquaint myself with Windows servers and barely had to touch the Linux ones. Saw some beautiful Vermont countryside on the commutes.

    Time to move on, as they say.

  79. “But who would hire me based on me doing online tutorials in it? Or could I pad my sys/net/security/dba resume with it accordingly?”

    As someone else here has suggested, it’s time you stopped thinking of yourself as someone’s employee and started thinking about working for yourself.

    Your dba/sysadmin experience coupled with the ability to program (and as long as you can produce some useful code written by yourself even if only for your own use, no one needs to know–or cares– whether your programming abilities were honed over a period of six months or six years [1]) could be a killer combination to a client who needs a one-off, specialized app. Accumulate enough of those clients and you could make a comfortable and intellectually satisfying living.

    [1] I got my first paying programming job based partly on a totally untested COBOL program I wrote on a manual typewriter, but mostly I suspect because they were desperate to hire someone! 🙂

  80. When you say “diligently” what sort of time commitment was involved for that 6-8 months? And what made her pick that?

    As for the latter question, I can text her, but it will be days before I get an answer (from any of my kids). She started out in music down at the Julliard of the Midwest at my alma mater, realized during the first year from others in the program that she would never get work in that field (she felt her skills were workmanlike, but not equal to a Joshua Bell who graduated from there), switched to people studies coursework because some others in her family had made a career out of counseling, but found no jobs in that field after graduation. She is a very detail-oriented person on projects, and loves stuff that requires detail (my son, her SO, is the exact opposite, strangely). She decided on programming, probably because it is detail work, and researched what was out there, choosing Rails. I strongly suspect that she chose Rails because she felt it was easier to learn than others.

    As to the commitment, she did the coursework while we all lived together here at Tiny House. I would say she was active from 3 to 5 hours a day for those 6 to 8 months. It was the only thing she did during that period. She also was struggling with a physical problem during that time, which turned out to be a spinal virus that lasted 6 months, and made her extremely uncomfortable in her own body. So there was a bit of distraction, the worst part of which was that the doctors could not determine for certain what was wrong with her. After the problem left, they knew for sure.

    That is the most I know, but if/when I find out more, I will pass it on.

  81. Chuck W. is spot on about programming being detail work. If you can’t mentally juggle multiple concepts while simultaneously maintaining a queue of to-do items, you probably won’t enjoy computer programming. OTOH, as the other programmers here will probably agree, once you get into the flow of coding AKA “being in the zone”, it’s wonderful!

    Studies from a few years back found that English majors were some of the best programmers.

    Besides, if nothing else, learning to program should prove to be a welcome change from what you’ve been doing!

  82. medium wave, I haven’t seen the study regarding English majors and programming, but if true I suspect it was more like “English majors who made the switch into programming and weren’t immediate failures and who didn’t leave after six months were some of the better programmers”.

    I saw a similar study which showed that English majors did best in medical school. Except it didn’t show that at all. What it did show was that medical students who had gotten undergrad degrees in English and then managed to do well on MCATs and get into medical school, were some of the better med students. Not the same thing at all.

  83. @SteveF: My recollections of the English majors/programmers studies may be as many as 30 years out of date, from back in the days when “programmer” usually meant “mainframe/COBOL coder”, so you may be correct.

    My experiences even back in those simpler times were that 90% of my programmer colleagues didn’t know the difference between a bit and a byte, and would be hard-pressed to program their way out of a wet paper bag. The guys who could code assembler were rightfully revered as the gods they were! 🙂

    I shudder to think what the competency level might be among today’s C/C++/Java/.Net/PHP/Ruby/Perl/…, even those who majored in Comp. Sci.

    Nevertheless, OFD’s comments here seem to indicate that neither his early and ongoing exposure to the humanities nor his many years as a sysadmin have totally rotted out his synapses to the point where he can’t pick up a new skill (or two, or several.) 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Just to be perfectly clear, the preceding paragraph was written with tongue firmly embedded in cheek!

  84. “Your dba/sysadmin experience coupled with the ability to program (and as long as you can produce some useful code written by yourself even if only for your own use, no one needs to know–or cares– whether your programming abilities were honed over a period of six months or six years…”

    Good point; I’d thought of the first half of that already but not the second.

    “Nevertheless, OFD’s comments here seem to indicate that neither his early and ongoing exposure to the humanities nor his many years as a sysadmin have totally rotted out his synapses to the point where he can’t pick up a new skill (or two, or several.)”

    I am a *recovering* English major (and former grad student/TA with ABD PhD in Medieval Studies twenty-one years ago, LOL). If those two gigs over the decades haven’t rotted out my synapses, maybe the forty years of boozing and the hundred acid trips might have done. But then again, maybe not.

    I’ve been looking at some online training programs; anyone know anything or have any experience with O’Reilly School of Technology certificate programs, or the courses at Lynda.com? Udemy? And there’s a local ed2go site hosted by the community college system here. All online.

    “…if nothing else, learning to program should prove to be a welcome change from what you’ve been doing!”

    Indeed, sir, indeed. I am so sick of babysitting office drones and PHB manglers and their aging and faulty systems they refuse to upgrade or patch, I’m actually willing to sit down and try something completely new to me, at least new beyond having previously worked with bash, vim and PowerShell stuff. Another attraction is it could be done from home.

    Thanks, Mr. Chuck for the info on the time investment involved with your DIL; I figure I could handle 3-5 hours even on top of a regular job, unless it’s like the one I just got canned from, that is, plus the two hours of daily commuting. Then I’d be hard-pressed to do two hours a day on it.

    I’ll also revise my job-hunting criteria on the related job sites I’ve been on for the past few years and see what the local demand is for various programming skillz.

    Thanks much, dudes; have a pleasant evening ahead and a rilly wunnerful day tomorrow; take a break from the ugly tee-vee nooz for the day and get outta the house. I sure will; many tasks to get cracking on in the back forty.

  85. Chuck W. is spot on about programming being detail work. If you can’t mentally juggle multiple concepts while simultaneously maintaining a queue of to-do items, you probably won’t enjoy computer programming. OTOH, as the other programmers here will probably agree, once you get into the flow of coding AKA “being in the zone”, it’s wonderful!

    Kevin Costner made a movie called “For Love of the Game” which I related to very much.
    http://www.amazon.com/For-Love-Game-Kevin-Costner/dp/078324021X/

    In the movie, when he was pitching in the major leagues against another team, he would go into the “zone” and it would just him and the batter. Nothing else in the stadium mattered. To me, I will be writing code in C++ or Fortran, go into the zone, and zone back in hours later with hundreds of lines of code written. Doesn’t happen nowadays as much as much as it used to due to email, bladder, noises in the office, people, etc. In fact, I have trouble just getting into the zone nowadays, much less staying in it.

  86. As I recall it, the study results I saw were that people who were fluent and productive in their native language proved also able to be proficient computer programmers.

    Dave, I’d suggest that you could do sample websites that were real. They’d also serve as display posters for your (theoretical) business knowledge. Do a market site for your wife’s products; then two sites for her, and you, in your current (in your case, both IT support and trainee webmaster) professions.

  87. “…since Jill Abramson was fired?”

    Would she, at her high level, been that much into the editing micromanagement?

    Oh, yeah. She WAS a micro-manager, which is why so many people had problems with her. From people I know with first-hand knowledge — everyone knew she was brilliant at what she did for the Times, but she had the personality of a fish and all compliments were backhanded.

    But she believed in fact-checking, which apparently the new guy is very lax on. The mistakes are just becoming rife.

    Which brings me to one of my pet peeves. I do not really watch TV or movies much, but I have been watching the ABC produced series “Marvels Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” To me, it is like reading a comic book with stuff you know is not true, but presented in a way that makes you think ‘wouldn’t that be nice’. A cargo carrier with 6 engines that functions as their office, complete with perfect VTOL capabilities, even after a crash that causes major damage.

    So one episode dealt with the state university in Ohio. Anybody who lives in my part of the country knows it is Ohio University, just like Indiana is Indiana University. Many times they referred to the “University of Ohio”. How much work is it to fact check the name of a university you choose to write into a script? Too much, apparently. They even showed scenes that were supposedly shot in Athens, OH, but anybody familiar with both the Midwest and LA, knows the 2 minute scenes driving in a car through Athens were from LA, what with not a single cloud in the sky and single story stucco houses with clay tile roofs. You might see an occasional slate roof here, and more often, completely metal roofs, but never clay tile.

    My dad owned a house we lived in, here in Tiny Town, that was built in the late 1800’s. It had a slate roof and that roof was as tight and dry when we lived there in the 1960’s as the day it was put on. I noticed on returning that they took the slate off and put on asphalt shingles. That slate would have outlasted the building, but people like to spend money for no damned good reason, and insure that they will have to spend it every 15 years. House next door still has its original slate and it is only about 20 years younger than our old house. Both houses are probably close to 150 years old now. We are finally becoming an old part of the country.

  88. medium wave wrote:

    “The guys who could code assembler were rightfully revered as the gods they were!”

    Thank you, thank you… 🙂

    I worked with a guy who got a PhD in atomic physics in the Fifties, then went into programming. He could read and interpret core dumps without checking op codes in the manual. He never returned phone calls, he figured if it was important they’d keep trying ’till they got through. Us common garden sysprogs/assembler programmers were in awe of *him*.

  89. “…Us common garden sysprogs/assembler…”

    Is that correct? Or should it be “…common garden-variety sysprogs/assembler…”

  90. Here’s what I learned about DIL and her foray into programming. She started at lynda.com and then bought the books on Rails sold by the organization itself.

    http://rubyonrails.org/documentation/

    She is very happy with her life as a programmer at the moment, and has been to conventions where she was offered jobs on-the-spot. She has not taken any of the offers, but they confirmed to her that there is plenty of demand out there for what she has to offer.

  91. Thanks, Mr. Chuck; I will take that under advisement and as encouragement. I have yet to enjoy the experience of being at a convention or conference somewhere and being offered sys admin gigs on the spot. I’m slow but I get it eventually.

    I’m still investigating the job market around here for programmers; it’s mostly Java and C so far; haven’t run into any RubyOnRails stuff yet.

  92. One thing I learned early in my career, after seeing someone given 20 minutes to clear out of the building, was never to accumulate or keep stuff at work. I never did.

    I agree entirely. I’ve never made the mistake of decorating my cubicle/office with personal possessions. Mostly because at first I was never inclined to and then after you see the first person doing the walk of shame to their car with a box of stuff (or, even worse, multiple walks to their car because it takes more than one box) you never want to be that person. So, there is absolutely nothing at work that belongs to me. I got let go last Summer from a job and the HR guy said he’d escort me to my office to collect my personal belongings and I replied, “There aren’t any,” made note of the confused and surprised look on his face, and then walked out of the door. Great feeling considering the otherwise shitty day. 🙂

    Unfortunately, now I work for a company that is obsessed with what they call “engagement.” Employees that don’t decorate their workspace with personal items are not engaged. Employees that don’t have at least one good friend at work are not engaged. Employees that do not attend work functions like picnics and parties are not engaged. Etc. etc. Not being “engaged” around there is akin to saying, “I have one foot out the door, so please fire me and replace me with someone who will be actively engaged.” According to management, actively engaged people work harder for the company and are happier doing so. So, I play the game. Though, all of the “personal” photos I have hanging up were printed at work on their paper with their printer and can be easily left behind if it came to that, but it gives the appearance that I am “engaged.”

    Not sure about Vermont, but around here there is an infinite demand for Ruby on Rails programmers.

    Same was true in the Omaha area about 5 years ago. Unfortunately, RoR never made it beyond the small web development companies. Those shops were usually owned by kids, managed by kids, and only interested in hiring other kids right out of college for maybe $40K/year. So, if you were a hipster living in midtown that just wanted to work in a loft office, then it was right up your alley. If you were an adult that needed a decent income at a stable company, then there weren’t any RoR jobs of interest. Now, nobody seems to mention it at all around here. I’m sure if varies by market and industry, so YMMV.

  93. I had many many many cupboards full of stuff so getting all that stuff home was a nightmare. But at least I knew when my last day was and it was my choice.

    Chucked about 1/3 of it when I got home, having chucked a lot while still at work.

  94. “Not being “engaged” around there is akin to saying, “I have one foot out the door, so please fire me and replace me with someone who will be actively engaged.”

    I’ve seen that crap before at various places and had it inflicted on me, too; I called it “enforced socialization.” It’s one thing to have it done within your own family, where every conceivable family “event” requires your enthusiastic and expensive presence, no matter the distance, time and inconvenience involved, it’s quite another to have the corporate matriarchy, and it’s usually the matriarchy that initiates and runs these things, force us to do extracurricular chit we don’t wanna do.

    I had a bellyful of that crap when I worked for the state and it was a factor in this most recent job and another potential one where I had an interview earlier this year, both places very big on “lean” management, and those daily AM “standup” meetings. There’s a bogus corporate fad every ten or twenty years, it seems; MBO (Management By Objectives), the Japanese thing, Agile, scrum and sprint sessions, MBWA, etc., etc., and one place I was at years ago heavily encouraged its employees to go to the Werner Erhard EST horror shows. They’d come back like male and female Stepford wives, which is kind of how I saw the other employees at this last aborted gig; they were a bunch of ass-kissing sycophants and cheerleaders for the GM and the married? couple who own the place.

    Good riddance.

  95. My son and his partner use Ruby on Rails for their gun website:
    http://www.gunpitt.com/

    My son’s opinion of RoR is that it is very powerful but does not scale well so that when your website gets popular, you have to throw lots of load distributors and servers at it.

  96. “Yet another reason to work for yourself.”

    Understood. In spades. Probably needed this latest job experience to stamp it indelibly on what remains of my decrepit and benighted soul.

    I’ve heard the same things about RoR; nice to play with in small operations but at enterprise level, not so much.

    Looking harder now at the O’Reilly training/certification curriculum and also at another line of work completely here; the combination, if I juggle everything well, could put me in the driver’s seat and mainly working from home, with occasional travel around Nova Anglia and north-country Vampire State.

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